Welcome back to the SPSFC. As you may be aware, we are now in the semifinals, meaning a mere 30 books remain in the competition.

As before, our team of judges will read each book to completion (or give it a dreaded DNF rating, and score it somewhere between 0 and 10. These scores will be added together to create a team average. The team average will then be combined with the average score given by the other two teams to have read that book. Spaces in the final are limited, and only the highest scoring books from across the competition will be granted one of the coveted spaces. And remember, if a book has made it this far, it’s because a few people really liked it. Even if it doesn’t go any further in the contest, it must be doing something right.

Today’s review is of Dim Stars, by Brian P. Rubin. As always, all thoughts below are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my fellow judges.

I’ve been reading science fiction for a long time. Even before I dedicated my reading time to the genre, I read a lot of it. Watched a it of it too. My introduction to the genre came through stone-cold classics, and authors like H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov. One of the first Asimov books I read was Pirates of the Asteroids, part of the Space Ranger series of novels. What sets that book apart from others I read at the time was that it was explicitly aimed at a younger audience. For all that science fiction is often derided as childish, there is not a whole lot of science fiction literature aimed at children. even at a young adult phase, most SF you’ll find comes courtesy of dystopias. At this stage, both in my reading journey and in general life, I’m no longer looking for that sort of book, however glad I am that they exist.

All of this puts me in an odd spot when it comes to talking about Dim Stars. There are some who might classify it as young adult, and I can certainly see why. I’m not one of them, however. For me, it skews a little younger than that. Certainly in terms of the prose, this is the sort of book that could (and perhaps should) be used to get school children into science fiction. It’s got the general idea of a group of cadets pulling together and learning important life lessons along the way. There’s an octopus crewmember who is very cute, and thankfully not the emotional punching bag that animal companions often end up becoming. If you’re newer to the genre, or just a younger reader than I am, then this will be a really good book to read.

However, I am old and jaded. I read this book and can’t help but see things I’d rather it delved into a bit more than it does. A book for younger readers isn’t the place to go into the nitty gritty of trauma and grief, but Captain Dash’s backstory could easily support a much more mature outing. There is, in some other timeline, a version of this book that sees Dash as the singular protagonist, and that’s a book I would have had no problem scoring very, very highly. There are hints and moments of that greatness in here, but the childishness distracts and detracts from them.

It is difficult to judge a book for which I am not the intended audience, but even with personal misgivings, Dim Stars is a very charming little book. I have no problem giving it a rating of 7.5/10 for the SPSFC.

6 responses to “SPSFC2 SEMIFINALIST REVIEW: Dim Stars, by Brian P. Rubin”

  1. Bookstooge Avatar

    Would this be appropriate for middle grade? I see the byline on the bookcover and it sounds like something a 7th grader would be really interested in finding out just what shenanigans are being talked about.


    1. Alex Hormann Avatar

      I’m not 100% sure how US grades correlate to age, but I’d have no problem giving this book to a 12+ year old. It’s about helping each other and making friends as much as anything, with no sex or swearing. There’s talk around criminal activity and war, but not dwelt on. Very much space adventure oriented.
      Hope that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bookstooge Avatar

        That does. Middle grade is grades 6-8 (so ages 10-13 roughly).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Athena (OneReadingNurse) Avatar
        Athena (OneReadingNurse)

        100 yes! I still can’t believe he called the octopus cute 🤣

        Liked by 1 person


    […] Stars, by Brian P. RubinFinal Score: 7.17/10 (Highest Solo Score: 7.5/10)My Review/Athena’s ReviewFinal Verdict: Realistically, our judges were too old to get the most out of […]


  3. MONTHLY ROUNDUP: April 2023 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

    […] Dim Stars, by Brian P. Rubin […]


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